Back when I was a kid (say about 3 years back- I believe I’m no kid anymore and that the past 3 years have added to my maturity levels, both mental and physical, quite substantially, much to my disappointment) I couldn’t wait to leave the city- the city I was born and brought up in and which everyone mostly liked to refer to as the City of Joy. What exactly it was about Calcutta which made them call it that, I failed to understand. I tried and tried, but couldn’t figure out.
When some of my friends had to choose colleges after passing out from school, they maintained quite unequivocally (and in retrospect, I believe, very maturely) that they would not leave their dear hometown. They seemed un-adventurous to me back then. In hindsight though, I think it was one of the smartest decisions they could have made. Choosing to stay back. There is something about that place. Something which makes it special, something which makes it stand out in your heart. Something which makes you refer to it as ‘home’. I couldn’t wait to get away. But three years away from the city, and you feel almost a magnetic attraction towards it which you had never imagined you would feel. Three years away and you realize maybe you’re not that adventurous after all.. Calcutta. Dear old Calcutta. What was it about the city that changed my views so drastically? What was making me so Calcutta-sick? It took me quite a while to realize.
It was my first step out of the Howrah railway station, after a hectic 6 month-Semester at college that made me feel this rush of love for the city. It took me another two months to really understand that love and to put it down in words.. as I do this, it’s like I’m feeling each of the following emotions all over again. It’s like I’m in Calcutta. Again.
Calcutta is the calmness that hits you when you first step out of Howrah amidst the rush of hundreds of people moving in and out of the station, and the incessant honking of cars. It’s the calmness that that place makes you feel in the rush, it’s the comfort that you feel in the noise and not despite it..
Calcutta is the gorgeous sight of the mighty Howrah Bridge standing humbly over the Ganga, it’s the sense of grandeur and humble pride that you feel around the area that begins near the Red Road and goes on till the High Court.. Calcutta is the sheer love that you feel at the sight of Eden where you’ve grown up watching the crowds cheer (till their throats run dry and voices go hoarse) for their very own Dada- sometimes to your annoyance. You get reminded of the amusing and bubbling enthusiasm with which effigies used to be decorated with garlands of shoes or flowers depending on whether the team lost or won the match..
Calcutta is the sense of security that the sight of the High Court has always inspired and will perhaps continue to inspire for years to come. It is the familiar calls of the conductors on the buses, shouting out “Aashte ladies…” every time you’re either getting off or on a bus. Calcutta is the sweetness of roshogulla and the wackiness of Doodh Fanta. It’s the craziness of Park Street and the homeliness of Balwant Singh ka dhaba. It’s the enrapturing, painful beauty of the Victoria Memorial and a reminder of the days of Auld Lang Sine..it’s a visit to the past in the present with eyes expectantly and determinedly looking towards the future.
It’s the call of old friends and renewed hopes..the nostalgia of first love and the innocence that comes with it for free 😛 It’s the simple yet compelling taste of Ma ke haath ka khana..and an incessant need to return to Dadi’s inconsistently consistent hugs and kisses. Calcutta is the soothing boat rides on the banks of Ganga on Babughat and the never ending walks on the Jetty. It’s the balloons that you’ve been robbing Bar-B-Cue of since you were 4 years old.
Calcutta is the reminiscence of the poet, the first love of the artist, and the smile that each of them is possessed by as they delve into their Calcutta experience. Calcutta is the quiet hours spent in contemplation and introspection while lazily driving around the city, it’s the smell of the first rains and the joy with which it’s always welcomed. It’s you playing football in the wet ‘math’ while the dark clouds pour on you, much to your pleasure and your mother’s dismay. Calcutta is you choosing to listen to the radio rather than playing out music from your aux.
Calcutta is quiet dinners with family and refreshing breakfasts at Raj..it is your first clandestine date at South City with your childhood love, your first movie with friends that you almost fought with your folks to let you go for..Calcutta is your first ever visit to CCD where a lot DID happen over coffee 😉 and the time you’ve spent at Crossword digging into your favourite books..
Calcutta is the love that stayed behind in its winding lanes and streets where lovers met, loved and then parted. Calcutta is the innumerable times that old friends have caught up in Oly, and the laughter over the stories they shared. It’s the delight with which a young girl fulfils her cravings for ‘Phuchka’ and the admiration which I feel every time I see an old man serving as the conductor of the slow paced and old, but still going strong, trams. It’s the fast paced Metros against the turtle like Trams and in more ways than one, it is the reflection of the ironies of life that this city forces you to recognize. Calcutta is the vibrations of joy and positivity that the beats of the ‘Dhak’ play in your heart and body. It’s the inherent respect for the fairer sex with which a Bengali father still calls his little daughter ‘Ma’..
Calcutta is the haunting memories that pull you back to it always, no matter where you go, how old you grow or who you become. It’s the unabashed need, want and desire to get back to the Comfort Zone always- the Comfort Zone which only Calcutta can signify the way it does. Calcutta, is the sum total of some of the best experiences of life.. a mixture of the subtle and the crazy. Calcutta is your first true friendship and your last true love. Calcutta is a heart full of memories that shall never ever leave your heart or you the same. 🙂